One Man's Children...

by Don Silvius

The ship "Queen Elizabeth" arrived at the harbor in Philadelphia on September 18, 1738. It had been a long voyage from England, and some of the passengers had embarked at Rotterdam on the European continent. The ships' passengers were "Palatine" refugees from the Rhineland Palatinate in western Germany on the Rhine River.

Upon arriving at Philadelphia, the German immigrants took varied routes in their new homeland. A group of four brothers, Johann Henrich, William, Conrad and John Silvius settled in the area west of Philadelphia. As families were started by three of the brothers, the Silvius family spread through Bucks, Northampton and Lancaster counties in eastern Pennsylvania. To this day, the older cemeteries in these counties are scattered with early Silvius family members; many of their descendants live in the area today.

William Silvius, who was thirteen years old when he arrived at Philadelphia on the "Queen Elizabeth", had nine children. Of these nine children, two, William and Joseph, came to Rockingham County, Virginia around the year 1790. At this time, the Shenandoah Valley was subject to Indian attacks and still considered the "frontier". Many families, mostly of German descent, were living in the Valley. From the land transactions and church records of the area, we know that these two brothers settled in the area of what is now Timberville, near the Rockingham/Shenandoah County border. Two of the churches that have the Silvius name in their early records survive today, Solomon's Lutheran Church and St. Mary's Pine Church.

Once they arrived in Virginia, William and Joseph seem to have lived near each other, as their names appear close to each other in the census records. It is interesting to note that some of the families who lived near the Silviuses in Pennsylvania had members move to Virginia at about the same time and to the same area. Two of these families are the Neffs and the Messerschmidts. Another family that may have made this move at the same time was the Surface family. It is important to note that Surface was probably Zearfoss or something similar. Early records often have phonetically spelled names, as the people who had those names were illiterate and couldn't tell the census taker, or other official how to spell their names, so it was spelled as it sounded. European accents often further complicated this problem.

Joseph Silvius died in Rockingham County in 1810, and within ten years, his family had moved back to Pennsylvania. Eventually this family moved to Ohio. William Silvius (the son of the immigrant William, who died in 1800) and his wife Margaret had six known children: Abraham, Mary, Isaac, Elizabeth, Jacob and Johannes (John). Descendants of these children abound in the Shenandoah Valley today.

Abraham married Christina Orebaugh in 1808 and they had three daughters. After Christina's death, Abraham remarried to Cathrine Phifer in 1816, and probably had more children. His daughter from his first marriage, Sally, married Samuel Estep. Many of their Estep descendants still live in the Shenandoah Valley.

Mary Silvius is someone about who very little is known. It is thought that she had at least two children, but at this time this has not been proven.

Isaac Silvius is the most documented of the children of William, son of the immigrant. Isaac is the direct ancestor of this author. Isaac had three sons who have descendants living in the Valley today. Descendants of Isaac through his daughters are members of the Jewell, Dodson and Golladay families. Isaac's son, Martin, had three sons and daughters who married into the Walker, Wetzel, Barb and Duncan families.

Elizabeth Silvius married Joseph Brown in 1808 and although no further record of this family has yet been discovered, chances are they have descendants in the Valley also.

Jacob Silvius provides us with a most interesting, although tragic, story. Jacob, in his twenties, married Susannah Myers June 22, 1826. Just weeks later, on August 16, 1826, while working in his father-in-law's hay field near Forestville, Jacob and his brother-in-law, Christian Myers, were killed when they were struck by lightning (eye-witness accounts relate that it was a clear afternoon). Jacob's young widow, Susannah, gave birth to their son, Jacob, March 27, 1827. The son, Jacob, married Elizabeth Kline in 1850. In 1862, Elizabeth and their four sons died from disease. Jacob eventually remarried and moved to Louisiana. He had a biological daughter and an adopted daughter, whose descendants live in New Mexico and Washington today.

John married Elizabeth Shaffer and they had at least five children. A son, Jacob, married and had children, and a daughter, Hannah married into the Lloyd family. There are members of the Lloyd family who are descended from William Silvius.

This briefly illustrates that the descendants of William Silvius, the immigrant, are widespread throughout the Shenandoah Valley. There are over thirty documented spelling variations of the Silvius name. Those common in the Shenandoah Valley are Silvious, Silvius and Silveous. However it's spelled, if it occurs in your family tree in the Shenandoah Valley, you are descended from William Silvius (1725 - 1800), the German immigrant, who arrived in America at Philadelphia in September of 1738.

Originally published in An Appalachian Country Rag February 20, 1998

Updated April 14 2006
© 1998 - 2006 Don Silvius

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